Here’s what you get with 11 Aviation High students, a small box and a rocket

Students at Raisbeck Aviation High School are once again proving the sky is not the limit. A team of eleven students spent 16 months designing, engineering and building a payload that launched into space on a recent Blue Origin New Shepard rocket.

Raisbeck Aviation Teacher Nikhil Joshi’s Flight By Design class, an engineering class for juniors and seniors, took on the astronomical challenge. The question the team of eleven students wanted to tackle: “How do immiscible fluids interact under microgravity?”

For more than a year students designed, documented and created experiments to satisfy their experimental question. Through the process, students worked with Blue Origin, a local, privately-funded spaceflight company and NanoRacks, a partner company that develops products and offers services for space use.

“As a teacher, I think the best part of this process was watching the students interact with Blue Origin and NanoRacks. We had weekly and bi-weekly conference calls,” Joshi said. “Students ran the calls, took notes and asked questions. They gained a huge amount of confidence in what they can do after high school.”

Joshua Carver was one of the students who worked on the experiment. According to Carver, the team developed a variety of industry-critical skills working on this project. Skills included programming, learning and using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) for electrical diagrams and project-managing skills that proved to be crucial to the success of the experiment.

“I worked with actual engineers in an environment that is not possible to fully replicate in the classroom. The most fun and important part of the project was where we met challenges–we had to get in touch with Blue Origin, NanoRacks or other experts to ask questions and figure out how to fix the problem,” Carver said. “It was very common that we would have to arrange meetings and collaborations between sub-teams. We were consistently juggling responsibilities to both the team and to Blue Origin and NanoRacks.”

Their experiment had to fit inside a space smaller than a grade school pencil box. To ensure its safety, it was transported in a briefcase straight out of a James Bond movie.

The payload launched in December. The flight to space and back lasted 11 minutes. The experiment had approximately three minute in microgravity. Students received data in the form of a video where they can observe and analyze the quality of the fluid.

The team is currently dreaming up a second payload experiment that focuses on the difference between critical magnetic fields under earth’s gravity and under a microgravity environment.

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